Only 18 months into setting up Sew and Sews Attic, Shropshire based former teacher, Helen Dale was struggling to survive but with the support of a retail business mentor, Helen has a renewed focus and vision for her business and sales have already doubled versus the same time last year.
Mark O’Dolan, a retail business mentor, was able to support Helen via funding that was secured by the National Skills Academy for Retail (NSAR) and was made available by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Mark … helped me realise that I had a unique skills set and this gave me a potential competitive advantage
Mark had already begun supporting other retailers in the town and as a member of the towns retail forum Helen became aware that via the NSAR funding he could also support her and she jumped at the chance.
Visiting the store in Shifnal and speaking to Helen it is clear to see the impact Mark’s advice and guidance has had on the way Helen runs her business. “Mark came to see me in January while I was still in Sale and it was amazing how much insight he was able to provide in that very first visit,” Helen told me. “Mark asked me lots of questions about both the business but also about myself and my skills and experience.“
“Mark wasn’t in any way critical, in fact he helped me realise that I had a unique skills set and this gave me a potential competitive advantage over other similar businesses. I just needed to make that clearer to customers…“
“I was trying to do too much and in doing so it wasn’t clear to anyone walking past the shop what I did, and so Mark suggested a change to my windows.”
Helen is very honest about the challenges the business still faces but her obvious passion and knowledge shine through with every customer who comes into the store.
“Learn to Sew” is the business’ newly found USP and with Helen’s sewing workshops fully booked the future looks far brighter.
The support … has given me a clearer vision and direction for my business that I lacked before.
“I know there is still a long way to go,” she tells me, “I need to be better organised, and to improve my online marketing skills but the support of Mark has given me a clearer vision and direction for my business that I lacked before.”
As a former teacher Helen recognises how important it is to continue to improve and develop skills and she is keen to access the new Digital High Street Skills programme that has been developed by the NSAR. She recognises how important it is for her to develop a marketing strategy not only for the bricks and mortar business but also in the virtual world. “It’s just about finding the time” she tells me “but I know I have to!”